Trust your gut instinct, sometimes people are not invested in your plan and that is okay. Everyone will have an opinion and you do not have to listen to it. For example, I had male advisors that expressed I needed coaching because I did not always agree with them. When women are strong, they can be labeled as “bitchy”, but when men appear strong, they are labeled as “leaders.” I never understood this theory.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ira Kaganovsky Green.
In 2016 Ira Kaganovsky launched FREEDOM right from her kitchen in honor of her three friends who were diagnosed with cancer, and the strong need for a natural deodorant that will keep women healthy AND odor-free.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
When I was 6 years old my family immigrated to the United States from the USSR. I became inspired by the work ethic in America and went on to spend 20 years in finance while being a single mother to my 3 amazing girls.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
I became inspired by the health benefits of taking an all-natural approach to what we put on and in our bodies. Many companies include harmful chemicals such as talc and aluminum in everyday products. Continued use of these harmful chemicals has been linked to cancer and other diseases. After my 3 friends were diagnosed with breast cancer, I sought out to find another way to keep women healthy through the use of natural products. As for the name, Freedom by George Michaels is my favorite song, so that was a huge inspiration to me in naming my brand.
Creating all-natural products can be difficult. It takes a lot of trial and error, but that requires determination. I knew eventually we would find the right scent, the right formula, and the best possible results, it just required time and effort. I did not want to have to choose between FREEDOM being effective or good for you. This was a huge concern for me when building the brand. However, we were able to achieve BOTH without comprise, which is why you need FREEDOM in your life!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?
I am a firm believer in learning from your mistakes. Without mistakes, we will never grow. Every mistake I have made, and there were many, made me stronger and more knowledgeable. Mistakes are opportunities for me. The best was when I had no idea what a bottom fill was. I thought it was self-explanatory when running a production line, but it cost our first run thousands. Luckily, it was an easy fix and I never made that mistake again!
Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
No question is a stupid question! Always ask questions, the worst thing that can happen is that you learn something, which is pretty awesome to me!
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors?
I find a lot of inspiration in podcasts and books. I heavily researched companies that inspired my brand and reached out to the founders for advice and insight. Some responded and some didn’t, of all, Chris Birchby from COOLA was a great resource that I really learned from. Remember, ask as many questions as you need!
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
Chris allowed me to come in and see the everyday operations of COOLA. I really appreciated his willingness to share and mentor me. It was nice to see this first hand. It opened my eyes to the type of team, culture, and responsibilities I wanted for Freedom. Podcasts and other resources do not really address the reality of da-to-day and it is hard to grasp the foundations through a computer screen. This was definitely a great learning opportunity!
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
I would love to focus on the positive, as I am an optimist. You make things that are better for people, with a better application, ingredients, and overall experience. It is great when you switch to something better and you actually enjoy it — it’s fulfilling to me.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a brief story or example for each.
Trust your gut instinct, sometimes people are not invested in your plan and that is okay. Everyone will have an opinion and you do not have to listen to it. For example, I had male advisors that expressed I needed coaching because I did not always agree with them. When women are strong, they can be labeled as “bitchy”, but when men appear strong, they are labeled as “leaders.” I never understood this theory. One time, I was told I was a man-hater by my advisor (I am not and I am actively looking for a nice single one too!) because I disagreed with hiring a bookkeeper out of state. I fired my advisor and got that bookkeeper. They have been with us ever since — trust your gut instinct. And last but not least, if I had a dollar for every time my family or friends thought FREEDOM was a dumb idea or unfriended me because of my love for a natural deodorant, I could’ve self-funded this company years ago!
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
There are lots of things in the works for Freedom and well, I love the element of surprise so stay tuned. What I will say is, wait until you see our new packaging and where you’ll be able to find our products for purchase — definitely keep this on your radar!
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Ambition and strength are some of the biggest challenges I believe women face. Women are viewed as hard to work with, while men are viewed as disruptors and leaders. The truth is, I think we’re all leaders in our own way. Determination is key and essential to building a brand!
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
How I Built This is a must listen, it is my happy place. While I was going through a tough divorce, I went to see a tealeaf reader to tell me where my life was going as I really didn’t know what my next step was going to be (anyone who has gone through this knows you tend to try anything). The tealeaf reader saw a hummingbird in my tealeaves…I immediately got upset. I thought to myself, “I spent 200 dollars to get what? A hummingbird?” As I was leaving, she told me the hummingbird would bring me my FREEDOM, and she was right. When you check out the FREEDOM logo, you will see a hummingbird.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
To bring more investment into female-owned brands, more advice, more opportunity…it blows my mind that women only get 2% of VC money. The industry is getting better, but it’s still very tough for female-owned brands. I would love to see more women invest in women, not just philanthropies. Empower a woman and she will empower her whole community.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Jump off the cliff and build the airplane on the way” It basically means don’t wait for perfection, just do it! (Thank you, Nike).